I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. The films even came up in college and university a tonne of times as landmark movies that challenged cinematic theories.
Although there are six Alien movies (not including the Alien vs Predator films), only four of them follow Ripley’s tormented adventures with the terrifying creature’s known as Xenomorph’s. Considered one of the most significant female protagonists in all of cinema, Sigourney Weaver played the memorable heroine, Ellen Ripley who turned gender roles in horror and sci-fi movies on their head.
So with whispers of a fifth Ripley-Alien movie floating about, I thought now was a good time as any to natter about some of my favourite facts from the Ripley quadrilogy.
The original Alien cast was ALL men!
The original Alien story had all male characters, but writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett had a note in their screenplay to say the characters could be unisex. Alan Ladd, one of the producers, proposed Ripley should be a woman because it would make the film stand out; Ridley Scott loved the idea because nobody would suspect she would survive. O’Bannan and Shusett never actually intended the lead would be played by a female.
A German Shepherd was used to make Jones the Cat, hiss.
Being a crazy cat-mama myself, this has to be one of my favourite facts of the lot. In Alien, the cat handlers couldn’t make Jones hiss at the Xenomorph model alone, so they placed a darkened screen between the Cat and a German Shepherd dog, hiding them from each others sight. When the Alien appears, the crew removed the screen revealing the Dog to the Cat, causing Jones to back up and hiss perfectly for the cameras.
The Xenomorph in the final sequence of Alien was already dying!
Even though it’s not made clear in the first movie, Ridley Scott decided that Xenomorph’s had short lifespans. Like insects, the Xenomorphs rapidly mature through different life-cycles and by the end of the film, when the Alien is moving sluggishly because it’s already dying of natural death.
James Cameron was not welcome on the second instalment of the franchise!
Many of the British crew that had worked on the original Alien film were so loyal to Ridley Scott that James Cameron had a hard time trying to win their respect. In an effort to win their confidence and show off his talents, Cameron arranged a screening of The Terminator but most of them ignored the invite and just didn’t turn up.
the Scott – Cameron Bromance!
Ridley Scott was excited by the thought of a sequel to Alien but when James Cameron was asked to write and direct Aliens instead, Scott said “it hurt my feelings really, because I thought we did quite a good job on the first one”. Scott was working in a nearby studio when Aliens was being made and ended up having a chat with Cameron. Even though the film went a different way than Scott had envisioned, he was impressed with the result, saying “It’s always a tough job to follow a successful film with a sequel to it, so what I think James Cameron did was an excellent action picture. It really was amazing what he accomplished. […] I would never, ever critique or criticise [Aliens] because I think it was very successful and what he did was really good.”
Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 were filmed in Britain!
For Alien, the live-action scenes were filmed at Shepperton Studios, off the B376 in Surrey. The model and miniature filming was done at Bray Studios, near Maidenhead in Berkshire.
The alien egg chamber where Kane (John Hurt) encounters the facehugger, was built in the disused Acton Lane Power Station in west London; the same place that James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens, was filmed.
Alien 3 was mainly filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire and Blast Beach in Seaham was used as the surface of the alien planet, alongside Dawdon Colliery on the Durham coast.
David Fincher had only directed music videos before Alien 3!
Alien 3 passed through the hands of a few directors before it landed on David Fincher‘s lap. Despite going onto make some absolute corkers (Zodiac and Se7en), Fincher didn’t get the same praise for Alien 3 that Alien or Aliens received and he had lots of conflicts with the studio. Fincher had never directed a feature film before and although he went on to be perfectionist in other movies he made, he really grated on producers for shooting and re-shooting scenes multiple times and being obsessed with the little details. The tense relationship with the studio was strained even more by rushed schedules, money, unfinished scripts and editing disagreements. By the time the film was released, Fincher wanted nothing more to do with it and refused to participate in the directors cut which ended up being released based on notes he left behind; it was a director’s cut without the director.
Sigourney Weaver said NO to Alien: Resurrection
Alien: Resurrection didn’t include Ellen Ripley in the original concept. Instead, it was meant to be about the enhanced clone of Newt (the little girl from Aliens) who would have super strength and fighting skills. Joss Whedon was brought onboard to write a story base for the idea because of his experience writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not too long after he wrote the initial story, the studio changed their minds about Newt. They were worried fans of the first Alien movies wouldn’t accept a fourth instalment without the Ripley character. After Sigourney Weaver declined the initial offers, the studio finally offered her $11 million dollars to reprise her role (which was the same as the whole budget for the original Alien movie). She obviously accepted and we ended up with a Ripley clone instead.
I could go on and on and on about all the trivia in the Alien films but I don’t think I would ever finish this post. I haven’t even included any facts about Prometheus (one of my favourite films of all time) or Alien: Covenant but I think I’d rather tackle them on their own.
I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here but I’m off now; I’m gonna go pop a film on… *ahem* Prometheus *ahem*…
Leave your own favourite facts in the comments below to keep this post interesting.